PEOPLE IN MORAY are already well aware of the quality food and drink being produced in their part of Scotland – but a community leader is now doing all he can to ensure that the rest of the country are also made aware of the fact.
After a successful business career developing Lossie Seafoods, a leisurely retirement would have been well deserved for John Cowe.
He had other ideas however – and after winning a Council by-election (beating this writer into second place and so, in a way, is responsible for insideMoray as well), John immediately settled into the demanding economic development role at the local authority.
And if that was not enough, he also took on the role as Chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership (MEP) – and from time to time is a contributor to the Scotsman newspaper.
It was in the latter role this week that Councillor Cowe used his influence to point out to the rest of the nation just what it is that Moray is providing on a regular basis.
Taking a wee swipe at the Scottish Government’s prevarication over improvements to the A95 – the main artery linking Moray with the south – John ventured on just how much Scotland is gaining from the millions of pounds worth of goods regularly exported down that road.
And from a region that, he correctly pointed out, most Scots “could not even point to on a map”.
“In 2014, Scottish food exports passed the £1.1billion mark for the first time, with total food and drink exports valued at £5.1 billion,” John said, adding: “Moray makes a vital contribution to that overall figure, as I have discovered in my travels round the region as chairman of the MEP.
“When I meet people – here and abroad – I confidently tell them they will have consumed something from Moray in the past year. Most look at me sceptically, particularly as many of them have never heard of Moray – but once I start to tell them about our fantastic products they usually accept I have a point.”
Whisky of course is the biggest player in the Moray food and drink production line – but it is not, by any means, the only export from our region that is being admired and consumed around the UK and beyond.
“As well as 22million litres of whisky there are growing volumes of local beer travelling down that same road, crafted using the same natural products which make our whisky so special,” John said, pointing a proud finger firmly in the direction of the likes of the Speyside Craft Brewery, Windswept Brewers and the Spey Valley Brewery who have all grown from nothing to prize-winning productions in just a few years.
It is not all about strong drink, of course – not by any stretch: “Baxters and Walkers, two of our largest food producers, have a worldwide reputation – and sitting alongside these flagship companies we have hundreds of smaller companies manufacturing a wide range of products.
“Sit down for dinner and we could well have provided everything you eat – some of the finest smoked salmon in Scotland, for a starter. Move on to a fantastic rib roast of beef reared on some of the best grass pasture in the country.
“Fancy ice cream for dessert? We’ve got a wealth of ice cream makers from the traditional manufacturers such as Miele’s of Hopeman to the newer kids on the block such as Great Taste Award winners, the Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour.”
Cllr Cowe is rightly proud, as we should all be, in Moray’s often understated international reputation for excellence – and there is a determination for that to continue: “We’re determined to continue to build on that and it’s particularly exciting to see new businesses capitalising on our reputation.
“The A95 heading south from Elgin is not simply the whisky road, it’s also the shortbread road, soup road, craft beer road, even an ice cream road.
“People may initially be sceptical about my claim they will have consumed something from Moray in the past year, but few disagree once I tell them a little more about the fabulous part of the world I am proud to call home.
“My next task is to ensure they can point to us on that map.”